First, go read Raph’s nattering. Kthx.
Let me preface this by saying I do not know Raph. I am well acquainted with his work, of course, as he is widely regarded as a luminary in the industry that employs me. I don’t think I’ve even met him, to be honest. Except perhaps that one time Anthony Castoro and I were having lunch at the pho place across the street from the Sony office in Austin. But that hardly counts.
I’m bewildered and perplexed at his calling this list a “lament.” Yes, training any kind of real world scrutiny on certain MMO behaviors reveals them to be quite silly. Yet, I question whether that scrutiny is warranted, or that there is anything wrong with this silliness.
Here’s a news flash: people in virtual worlds are not bound by the same physical laws as we are in the real world. I know that seems like a real “Duh” observation, but consider the ramifications. It implies that everything we know about how the world should work, based on empirical experience, is suspect. If you look at it that way, how could virtual worlds NOT develop their own patterns of behavior based on the constraints of the ruleset? How then could we expect those patterns would NOT be perpetuated by game designers, who steal the most proven game designs simply so they can get their fucking product shipped and make their stock options worth something?
It’s an evolutionary process, folks, and remember: evolution is nature’s way of ensuring the most survivable genome wins. Remember also: evolution can take a long, long time. The oldest graphical MMO in continuous operation (either Ultima Online or Lineage, depending on whether you’re reading the Western or Eastern edition of Guinness, respectively) is only nine years old. Nine. Not a human lifetime. Not a mere generation. Nine years. At that age, a human child is just barely past the point where it’s learned how to stop shitting itself. Isn’t it a bit soon to bemoan the fact that virtual worlds are not ascending rapidly enough toward some pie-in-the-sky ideal?
Let’s talk about the state of the art in the MMO industry today. Millions of people all around the globe can and do connect to one another via teh intarnets. Millions of them are doing it right now . . . instead of engaging in less valuable activities, such as watching TV or putting up campaign posters for the Republican party. For many of those people, clearly, virtual world technology is already interesting enough to justify shelling out greenbacks they could be using to buy things like food and heat. I consider these signs that we live in exciting times.
And the technology — ergo, the quality of the simulation — is only going to get better. I will go you one further and predict that we’re going to have to grit our teeth and fight for every inch of progress we make. That is the nature of the beast. But I would also argue it’s the right way for it to work. Adversity spurs creativity (albeit, sometimes, creativity in the form of “let’s take the team and go find some VC money” . . . but that counts).
So what’s my point? I don’t know, this is just a rant. It just seems to me there’s been a lot of unjustified backlash lately about the way the game industry operates, from Greg Costikyan predicting it’s imminent demise over there to Raph bashing single player games over here.
I guess my point is, I disagree. Anybody with me?